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Music faculty to release piano CD with major classical label

RELEASED: Dec. 2, 2010

Dr. Nicholas Phillips and Dr. Ethan Wickman
Dr. Nicholas Phillips and Dr. Ethan Wickman
(Photo by Rachel Schimmelman, R|S Designs)

EAU CLAIRE —Two members of the music faculty at the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire will release a CD of piano music with a major classical record label Jan. 1, 2011.

"Portals and Passages," from Albany Records, features music written for solo piano by Dr. Ethan Wickman and performed by pianist Dr. Nicholas Phillips. Both are assistant professors of music at UW-Eau Claire.

"This has been a huge endeavor for both Ethan and me, and we're extremely proud of the finished project," said Phillips, who first experienced Wickman's work when he played a piece written for violin and piano called "Passages."

"I was immediately struck by that piece — and his overall style. After learning his 'Inside the Hubble Toolbox,' commissioned by the Wisconsin Music Teachers Association, I approached him with the idea of collaborating on a CD. I had played this work in recital around the country and the response from audiences was really positive; this was new music that really spoke to listeners."

'Portals and Passages' CD cover
"Portals and Passages" CD cover

The project, which was funded by UW-Eau Claire's University Research and Creative Activities grant program and the UW-Eau Claire Foundation, began in earnest in fall 2009. The result is a CD with a diverse lineup of music Phillips describes as "alternately full of rhythmic intensity, exquisite lyricism, musical quotation and virtuosic writing for the piano," and includes a composition that begins with a lullaby theme written by Wickman's great-grandfather and a fantasy variation on that theme. It was recorded at Wild Sound Recording Studio in Minneapolis, Minn.

"Working on these pieces over the last many months has been a real joy," Wickman said. "Collaborating with a first-rate player, like Nick, on an ongoing basis allows a composer to elicit the kind of depth from a body of work that cannot be achieved with a couple of passing performances."

According to Phillips, the opportunity to work directly with a composer on his or her music is also beneficial and an uncommon luxury for pianists.

"Ethan and I approached this project as a true collaboration, sharing ideas and insights from our respective vantage points as composer and pianist. The opportunity to work alongside him on the music included here has been an incredibly rewarding experience, both personally and professionally," Phillips said.

CDs may be purchased online through Albany Records, Amazon and iTunes, or through the musicians' individual websites: www.nicholasphillips.net and www.ethanwickman.com. For more information, contact Dr. Nicholas Phillips at phillins@uwec.edu or Dr. Ethan Wickman at wickmaef@uwec.edu.

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RD/DW

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